In July 2015, a Coursera course I attended turned out to be transformational for me. A wonderful instructor, a lovely bunch of participants, and a creative, engaging environment of learning and sharing — it was an intense, inspiring association. I absorbed its multi-cultural experience with great delight, seeing things with a lens I never did before. So many people, so many ideas, and yet we were more similar than dissimilar really, I realized. That is when an idea struck me. Why not come together to create a book or a diary, give wings to our narratives across the globe, and forge a new wave of understanding? And so, a desire was sown, which eventually blossomed into A Pocketful of Dreams…
Once the idea was tabled, 35 enthusiastic students jumped in at once. I look back now with a smile. Elin, Mane, and Zoha were the ones I discussed it with, first. We had a close bunch of friends from the class — Peter, Mimoun, Meghdad, David, Sharon, Ignaty. ‘Let’s do it!’ they said excitedly. We had only met each other virtually and so a collaborative task of this proportion to be executed online, seemed impractical to many. (How can we forget Charles who totally trashed it). It is true, most were amateur writers. ‘How do we go about it? Where do we begin?’ We had a lot to work on.
A community mobilization initiative of this proportion needed a clear road-map and had to be intensely participative to help individuals grow a sense of ownership with the project. As an Army Officer’s wife, I have been involved with such tasks before, and I believed in it. If individual members of a community are engaged in a way they find a sense of purpose in what they do and a platform to use their respective skill set meaningfully, there is growth for one and all, and the whole community benefits from it. But to achieve such a feat across different time zones and restrictive firewalls looked daunting.
A Facebook closed group was created immediately to bring everyone together. Those would couldn’t come on FB were kept in the loop through regular email updates and google spreadsheets. A peer-review and-learning process was established for every idea and draft to be evaluated and critiqued by the entire team. A few writers volunteered to help as editors, to mentor other writers from the various continents. We had a thriving team at the end of it, thanks to Lorinna, Lynda, Jenny Joy, Danica, Reina, Chandrika, Amarta, and others like Ry, Cristina, Johannes,Carmen, each one contributing to the build-up of the project. The first story to get approved by all was written by Carmen from Colombia. It is one of the most beautifully crafted stories we have and I decided to include it as the first story of this collection. With that the Magic Diary started its journey.
During the next few months of hectic deliberation, writing, and rewriting, our team had not only moved closer to their dream of publishing their work but also grown into a close-knit family of friends, respectful of their differences.
However, at that point we had only 35 stories. If we intended to call it a global project and hoped to publish ourselves, we needed more writers from all the major countries of every continent. We needed at least 15 more representations to make it worth a read. How could we achieve that? It seemed a tall order at first. But we were in for a surprise. Over the next few months as the word spread through our Magic Diary community of friends, other storytellers started pouring in. ‘ We would love to contribute…What a unique project, ’ we heard everyone saying. I met some of the most invaluable friends in the process. I am so grateful for Nancy and Anthony especially. Nancy and Lynda worked tirelessly on the entire manuscript with me, later joined by Danica and Reina. Reina is just 13, by the way, but an invaluable member of the team.
Lorinna Hastings, from Australia, one of our most active members, a writer-artist who gave us some wonderful illustrations for the book, introduced us to a horde of excellent writers and authors, the best in their fields, and our web of love grew a little larger every day. It was particularly exciting when a published writer from France, James Vance, agreed to send his story. Soon another well-known poet from Oregon, Toni Hanner, sent us her blessings and her poem. Others followed from Ireland, Scotland, Hungary, Denmark.
From remote Afghanistan, Reza, a social worker agreed to share his story. From another corner, Ito, a Japanese filmmaker appeared miraculously and said he would love to participate too. Zara, a friend’s daughter from Belgium, all of nine, asked if she could contribute. What amazing energy. We were feeling blessed already. But the best was yet to come. When Lorinna introduced us to this exceptionally talented artist from UK, the project attained a momentum of its own. Pat Southern-Pearce became a star overnight. Her gorgeous illustrations were to die for. She added a whole new dimension to our initiative.
By the end of Sept 2016, the manuscript was finally ready, but when it came to publishing we still had quite a few hurdles to cross. Though the collection was unique, to find a distribution channel to send the book to every corner of the globe looked impossible. How would we reach our writers to some of the remotest corners of world? ‘Let’s make this online adventure available online to everyone,’ was the consensus.
And so, here we are, and here’s our humble diary, a window to the world, A Pocketful of Dreams.
The Magic Diary initiative has turned into a unique, heart-warming people’s project today, garnering an unprecedented amount of goodwill along its way. I believe whenever an individual or a community starts to harness its loving selfless energy for greater good, immense blessings come with it.
So, let’s spread the magic. Let’s enjoy the miracle.
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